Carrying the flag during tumultuous times
David Saul was thrust into the role of Minister of Finance during a time of high stakes for the island’s economy.
With the island rocked by recession, followed by the loss of the United States base investments and the challenge of building international business, Dr Saul faced tough decisions.
Former premier Sir John Swan noted how he “helped to bring the country to economic development — both in the finance department of the Government, and as an elected Member.”
“He was always enthusiastic about the potential of Bermuda.”
Added Sir John: “He carried the flag. I spent a lot of time with him helping to formulate the growth of international business and our relationships with other countries. He was by my side a lot during my tenure.”
Dr Saul’s appointment to the job in 1989 was repeated after the General Election of October 1993. Many, particularly on the Progressive Labour Party side, chafed at his style.
Recalled former colleague John Barritt: “We were then in the teeth of recession. David had to deliver tough Budgets in order to turn things around, but he gritted it out as only David was able to do.”
It was “unusual for a rookie MP to get elected and be given that senior post”.
Nevertheless, Dr Saul “kept a tight hold of the purse strings as he thought he should, much to the chagrin of some of his colleagues in the Government, and he would not back down when he thought he was right”.
“David deserves a lot of credit for helping to introduce a mandatory national pension scheme,” Mr Barritt added.
Ronnie Viera, former president of the Chamber of Commerce and former chairman of the United Bermuda Party, described the pension legislation as one of Dr Saul’s significant achievements.
“The process was not easy as he was up against significant opposition from the larger companies in the island,” Mr Viera said. “Every Bermudian should be very thankful for his persistence as many would not have sufficient savings to rely on in their retirement.”
Dame Pamela Gordon, who succeeded Dr Saul as premier, reflected: “The challenge you have in politics, but in Bermuda particularly, is that people have huge expectations on what they believe you should be doing, as opposed to understanding that those at the helm are limited by the choices realistically available to them.”
And former PLP premier Alex Scott said he believed Dr Saul had coined the phrase “Bermuda, inc” in his determination to draw new international business to the island.
“He put the emphasis on offshore and reinsurance business, as opposed to the dependency we had at that time on tourism — he had the financial background, and was first a civil servant as well as a politician.”
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